This Sunday after New Year’s has been unseasonably warm. I’m not complaining, mind you; it’s not been t-shirt and shorts weather, just pleasant enough for a late-afternoon walk in a light jacket. She wore gloves, too, and we enjoyed seeing that ours was not the only house in the neighborhood where Christmas lights are still shining.
The holidays were lovely, with bits that were quiet and peaceful and bits that were bubbly and full of company. Decorations were kept to a bare minimum–stockings by the fireplace, some lights outdoors, a sprig of mistletoe. We didn’t decorate a tree, but her mom brought a ceramic tea-light holder that’s sitting proudly on the mantle; it’s shaped like a tree, glows softly, and gives off a lovely evergreen scent when lit. By the time the dust settled–literally, from the renovations–and was mopped away again, we were so happy to have the living room clean and serene that the thought of pine needles falling was just too much to bear. The candle holder is tree enough, this year.
None of the trappings of the holidays were extravagant, in fact. Decorations, gifts, travel, food–all were modest and joyful. Especially the food: we had wonderful meals, but not banquets that took so long to prepare that we were too tired to enjoy them.
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For some families, it’s not Christmas Eve unless there are seven sorts of fish on the table. For others it’s pierogi. Or Yorkshire Pudding. Or a slice of pizza grabbed on the run between church services. We’re still working out what our traditions might become.
Many say that what one does on New Year’s Day determines how they’ll spend the rest of the year. Others say that the state of one’s household on New Year’s Day indicates the state in which it will be for the rest of the year. For them there is a New Year’s Eve observance called Hogmanay. We kept this custom with a flurry of activity that left the house beautiful and me a little cranky. I apologized, but probably not quite profusely enough.
We had fried rice for a late supper on New Year’s Eve with a friend we were delighted to welcome; but by this point the day had taken its toll. She was falling asleep on the sofa long before midnight, and I was not far behind. I looked at the clock and realized we’d missed the big event. I found a cat toy that lights up, and our friend made a quick video we could show her later: the New Year’s ball drop our way.
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“We could have popcorn for dinner,” she said, in the early evening of January 1. After more masses and a long afternoon run, I was in favor of a minimal-fuss supper. Still, it didn’t seem quite right. Although my family didn’t have any particularly strong Christmas-dinner traditions, something vague and grandmotherly said there should be pork (fat indicating prosperity?) and greens (the color of wealth, I think) on the New Year’s Day table. While the oil heated for popcorn, I sliced a little leftover pork into a skillet, then in tossed the spinach we’d forgotten to put in a lentil stew on the 29th. It was just a couple bites of each, sort of an appetizer before a bowl of terrific popcorn, but a little protein and some vegetables seemed healthful as well as honoring tradition. Making music, running, eating simple and tasty food, and spending time together: if this is what 2015 holds, it will be a wonderful year.
Today’s weather wasn’t what we might expect of early January; but, then, my cup of cocoa is a little warmer than expected, too. I may have added a pinch more cayenne pepper than I meant to. Hers was made the same way, but she hasn’t objected. It’s just a little untraditional.